Saturday, July 13, 2019

Open letter to Needham Patch about Amnesty International's fanatical Zionophobia

The Needham Patch on July 10 published an article "TripAdvisor Criticized For Palestine Listings" without correcting any of Amnesty International's factual errors or balancing any of its virtually insupportable and biased assertions.

The article may be found at I sent the following letter to the Needham Patch at with a copy to the reporter, Jimmy Bentley, at

Dear Needham Patch and Jimmy Bentley:

I have long been disappointed by the way Amnesty International, an organization I used to admire, has lost its moral compass when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict and has, in effect if not intent, crossed the line into antisemitism. I was thus not surprised by one of AI's latest outrages, but am disappointed that it was reported empathetically in the Needham Patch with no corrections of the factual errors or caution about the bias or absurdity of AI's action and assertions.

I urge you to publish a followup in which you educate readers about those errors, absurdities and misrepresentations. I include below an analysis of some of those and, since my summer home is nearby, in Natick, I would be happy to meet with you and explain and discuss some of these issues in person.


Alan Stein
Natick, Massachusetts and Netanya, Israel
Founder, PRIMER-Massachusetts
Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting


The errors begin with the headline, "TripAdvisor Criticized For Palestine Listings," referring to "Palestine" as if it were a state. Even Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, clearly recognizes there is no such state, notwithstanding the way he has applied for and, incredibly received, recognition of status as a "non-member state" from the United Nations General Assembly. He often demands the establishment of the "state of Palestine" with a capital in "East Jerusalem," itself a non-existent "city;" obviously, there would be no need to establish "Palestine" if it already existed.

The article begins: "The world's largest human rights organization accused a local online travel company of 'profiting off war crimes' by listing hotels and other businesses at Israeli settlements in Palestine on its website." This once again refers to "Palestine" as if it were a state and ups the ante by referring to alleged but non-existent "war crimes," which it refers to again in the next paragraph when it quotes AI claiming TripAdvisor is "profiting off war crimes by listing tourist attractions and properties in illegal Israeli settlements."

While some claim the Jewish communities in the disputed territories, pejoratively referred to as "settlements," are "illegal," this is highly questionable and even if they were it they would hardly constitute "war crimes."

The San Remo Conference following World War I called for "close settlement" by Jews in what was then called Palestine; this resolution was approved by the League of Nations, giving it the status of international law, was incorporated into the founding documents of the United Nations, and has never been revoked. It would thus appear that Jewish settlement in the currently disputed territories is not only not illegal, but encouraged under international law. This should have been noted along with AI's questionable claim.

The absurdity of claiming that Jewish building in Jerusalem (inaccurately referred to as "occupied" by many) and the disputed territories is illegal is obvious if one considers the following.

The portions of Jerusalem militarily captured by Jordan in the 1948 war included the Jewish Quarter. Jordan kicked out all the Jews and destroyed all the synagogues. After Jerusalem was reunited in 1967, Jews moved back into the Jewish Quarter and many of the synagogues were rebuilt. To call that building in the Jewish Quarter "illegal" and a "war crime" is effectively sanitizing the violent ethnic cleansing carried out by Jordan and is patently absurd.

The same is true of the Etzion Bloc. In fact, many of those who moved to the Etzion Bloc after 1967 were members of some of the very families that were kicked out by Jordan, some being the very people who had been kicked out.

According to AI, returning to one's family's property and running a hotel or restaurant or renting an apartment there constitutes a "war crime" and when TripAdvisor lists one of those family businesses it is "profiting off war crimes."

Can you think of anything more absurd? Yet AI's claims were reported not just as if they weren't absurd, but relatively favorably.

The article, without comment, quotes Amnesty International's letter saying "The settlements have had a devastating impact on Palestinian communities over the past five decades, ... "

According to the World Health Organization, in 2015, life expectancy in the disputed territories was 72 years for males and 75 years for females. In 1967, it was 49 years.

Infant mortality is now 14.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 152 in the West Bank and 162 in Gaza in 1967. This hardly constitutes a "devastating impact."

AI continues: "To make way for their construction, Israel has demolished tens of thousands of Palestinian homes, forcibly displaced large portions of the population and diverted water and other Palestinian natural resources for settlement use."

Almost all Israeli construction has been on previously uninhabited land and takes up a miniscule portion, in the neighborhood of 1-2% of the disputed territories. There is rampant illegal construction by Arabs in the disputed territories, only a small portion of which has been demolished by the Israeli government. Hypocritically, the same people who criticize the destruction of illegal structures built by Arabs demand the destruction of structures built by Jews. I personally have Jewish friends who were forced by the Israeli government to demolish a home they had built because they hadn't obtained the required permits.

Israel also created important infrastructure, including roads, schools, hospitals and water resources, which had been neglected or was non-existent during the 19 years of Arab occupation. During the Oslo period, Israel has actually provided more water to the Palestinian Authority than called for by the accords, while the Palestinian Authority has not only declined to cooperate with Israel on the management of water resources but allowed activities, such as illegal drilling of wells, that has sabotaged the scarce shared resources.

AI continues: "By promoting tourism in these illegal settlements, TripAdvisor is boosting their economy, helping them to expand and contributing to the mass suffering they've caused."

Not only does AI once again incorrectly call the Jewish communities "illegal," but falsely claims they contribute to "mass suffering." In actuality, the Israeli recapture of the disputed territories was a boon to the Palestinian Arabs. I noted the amazing improvements  in life expectancy and infant mortality. The Jewish communities also provide employment opportunities that have been a godsend to many Arab workers and their families, with salaries paid on the Israeli scale, far higher than those paid by Arab companies or the Palestinian Authority.

Rather than "expanding," the Israeli government has authorized the construction of just one single new Jewish "settlement" since the Oslo process began a quarter century ago; the footprint of the Jewish communities has remained essentially unchanged.

According to the article, "Amnesty International argued TripAdvisor could be the leading voice against human rights violations if it drops the travel listings."

There are hundreds of territorial disputes in the world today; by ignoring others singling out the world's only Jewish state, one which has a strong claim to the disputed territory, which is in the Biblical Jewish homeland and was designated by the League of Nations to be part of the reestablished, sovereign Jewish state, AI is acting in a discriminatory, indeed antisemitic manner. It also effectively rewards the Palestinian Arabs for their refusal to make peace and their pathological commitment to terrorism; in this way, AI is actually encouraging human rights violations by other terror groups.

It is reasonable to report Amnesty International's actions, but it is not responsible or balanced to fail to note the factual errors or the strong counterarguments.

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